Most TV gives me a dull, existential ache at the moment – programmes made in the before times feel outdated and weird, and the soaps, which will soon be taking on pandemic-related storylines featuring Norris in the Kabin shouting Northern bon mots from behind a perspex screen, feel especially odd. How will evil Geoff cope with social distancing? Will he be reduced to tormenting Yasmeen with a telescopic probe? And how on earth are you going to create an effective one-way system in the Queen Vic? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Equally, programmes made after lockdown are utterly depressing affairs, usually with terrible sound quality. The only programmes I can watch with any genuine joy have to be made decades ago, like Hart to Hart, featuring Robert Wagner battling a cobra in an air conditioning system, or Sapphire and Steel, with a young Joanna Lumley wearing electric blue contact lenses.
Out of all the regular shows on TV, it seems that only Gogglebox has truly survived the wreckage of Covid. It’s always given me a warm feeling (apart from that time they all started agreeing with Brexit) and during a pandemic it’s proving to be the televisual equivalent of a weighted blanket. Sitting endlessly in front of the TV with a plate of French fancies on the table, slowly expanding, mushy brains semi-engaged… it feels like a safe space, somehow.
And now the foul-mouthed Celebrity Gogglebox is back. Since they chucked off tedious gobshite Laurence Fox, we can all breathe a sweet sigh of relief and enjoy the great wisdom of Daisy May Cooper from This Country, Zoe Ball and her inexplicably adult son Woody, the wilfully silly Mo Gilligan and Babatunde Aléshé, and the old regulars – Bez and Shaun, Gary and Ronan Kemp, and of course, Rylan and Rylan’s mum. Rylan’s mum is hands down one of the best people on telly, continuously missing the point, interrupting to tell a story about her friend Pauline, and always the last to understand what’s going on. She should have her own current affairs show called What’s Going On? where she sits staring blankly at the camera. It would be perfectly fitting for the times.
Through the benign lens of Gogglebox, it’s also easier to tolerate the most trying celebs, even professional buffoon Eamonn Holmes. There’s something about the fact they’re stuck at home too, watching something for the first time and eating chips with Maureen Lipman, that just warms my cockles. Whereas Celebrity Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity… bring out the worst in the contestants, Celebrity Gogglebox is the great leveller. We’re all fragile egos seeing this thing through together, pyjamas on, one programme at a time. And when we finally emerge from the big crater in the sofa cushions, blinking into the light; just like Rylan’s mum, we’ll wonder what on earth just happened.
All episodes of Celebrity Gogglebox are on All 4 now